How to win a Rally Championship – what it really takes

What does it take to win a rally championship?

Sure rally driving is a lot of fun and a lot of people do it for the pure enjoyment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some however discover their competitive side and want to win.

The answer starts with a question. “Do you want to win a rally or a championship?” They may seem like one and the same however they’re not. Different strategies need to be employed depending on the answer.

Winning a Rally

Winning an individual event requires a shorter term strategy. Of course you need to be a fast rally driver. You also need a fast and reliable car and a great co-driver. Having a strong team to support you certainly helps as well. On top of that you’ll need lots of consumables such as tyres and spare parts.  The budget can soon escalate. Depending on how fast your competition is will determine how hard you have to push the machinery and yourself. Driving at the limit wears down both.  You may have a trophy in hand at the end of the event, however there may be a bigger price. A well worn car, no spare parts and shredded tyres could take the sheen of a great result.

Winning a Championship

If you don’t have everything required to win a rally, you could still take the overall title. This is where the long game comes in. You’re now concentrating on scoring points at every round. This doesn’t mean finishing in last place. This means making sure you finish high enough without over-stretching. What good is a win on one rally when you have to sit out the next because you battered the car and run out of time or money to fix it?

The Scenario

You’re in second place on the third rally of the year and the lead is held by ten seconds. You’ve got two stages to the finish. What do you do? A.) Challenge for the win or B.) Settle for second? Many, many times this scenario has played out from Club level to the World Rally Championship. For those who challenge for the win it’s a big roll of the dice. A win could bag a few extra points. A retirement could be game over for the rest of the season.

It’s time to think about the rally championship rather than the individual event. Secure second place points helps keep the tally up. Falling off the road or a mechanical failure whilst trying to win could be costly. This is where a measured approach is needed. It can be hard to concentrate on the end goal when short term glory could be within grasp. Even the world’s best have trouble with this concept sometimes.

True Life example

There’s one word that sums it all up. Consistency.  During 2017 this couldn’t have been proven more. The WA State Rally Championship has been the realm of four wheel drive turbo cars for 30 years. 2017 broke that mould. Tom Wilde/Maddie Kirkhouse brought their 2WD Honda Civic to the line at the start of the year. A fairly standard machine of mid 90’s vintage, the car was at best a 2WD contender. In comparison to the more modern (and much more expensive) WRX’s and EVO’s, on paper it didn’t have a chance. By the end of the season the pair astounded everyone, winning the outright title!


Talented driving certainly helped however Wilde & Kirkhouse knew they didn’t have the machinery (or the budget) to take outright wins. They had to employ the long game strategy. Banking points at each round became the goal.  They drove neatly on each rally carrying speed whilst preserving the car. Challenging for a win was not an option against the might of the competition.

There was a thorough pre-event regime before each round. Inspect, check and replace if required. With neat driving the car endured the season without major failures. Part replacements were more routine than reactive. Their team also banded together around the pair and helped with support.

By the second half of 2017 the pair held a lead in the championship. For the 4WD contenders they were forced to chase harder to try and turn the tide. Pushing often resulted in a slip or mechanical failure which put one or other 4WD down the leader board. By the last rally of the season Tom and Maddie still led however the gap had narrowed. The long game doesn’t come without its pressures and they could still have be overhauled on points.  Driving with level heads they got themselves into third place and held it. This was enough to give them the points to secure the 2017 State title.

Lightning Strikes Twice

A similar scenario played out in the 2017 Clubman Cup with coincidently another Honda Civic. This time it was Andrew Percival/Jim Pearce who used the long game to take second place for the year. The budget was miniscule. They ran on used gravel tyres at all rounds and camped in tents. They even resorted to using standard Civic rear suspension after their gravel spec units cried enough. A podium finish at the end of the year was apt reward for the strategy.

For many years we’ve employed the long game philosophy in our team. It has rewarded us with many championships and good results. Winning a rally is a great, winning a championship is Epic.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field